In his book Essentialism Greg McKeown elaborates on the concept that “less is more”. He uses examples throughout history to color in this idea from a police force dropping the rates of crime by only focusing their efforts in particular areas of prevention to Boyscout leaders improving the speed of their troop by focusing their attention on identifying the primary problem.
The idea of essentialism and trying to reduce the number of activities in a life so one can focus on doing a few of them better seems very applicable. As an internal medicine resident I had decided long ago what I wanted to do well. I imagine like most new interns beginning I didn’t exactly know what that was and sometimes it was overwhelming navigating through endless review books, questions, QI projects, research ideas, posters, meetings and whatever else was around. For me the biggest realization was that although I genuinely wanted to do all these things the reality was that to succeed I had to take it one project at at a time — in other words decide what was essential.
This concept seems to transcend just extracurricular activities. Even while practicing clinical medicine channeling my efforts into one or two primary problems is better than tackling them all at once. As an internist I strive to take care of all of my patient’s problems and not leave any issue overlooked. Having said that, with the speed and complexity of hospital medicine multiplied by several patients it becomes important to recognize what must be done now versus later and finally what can be done as an outpatient. Although challenging at first with practice it has become easier.
One final concept that the author mentions in his book is the idea that “play” is important. I’ve heard this mentioned in other places and also incorporated into slogans i.e work hard play hard. For me it became relevant during medical school and residency when you could always study an hour longer or read another chapter. I think in our profession getting rid of some time wasting activities is necessary but exists on a spectrum. After a certain point one can let too much ago and not have enough activities to keep themselves occupied. For me, reading books and writing have become very important and knowing that has provided my life balance. That’s my “play”.